One of the strongest and brightest stars has gone from the Vineyard constellation with the death of Capt. Everett Henry Poole on Feb. 21 at the age of 91. He will shine on in the stories he told and in the hearts of those who loved him.

Everett kept a steady hand on the life of the Chilmark community. For more than 50 years, he was a respected fixture on the Menemsha waterfront, as proprietor of Poole’s Fish Market and the Chilmark Chandlery. On the town meeting floor, he navigated the civic and democratic life of Chilmarkers, as moderator for 45 years.

The son of fisherman Donald LeMar Poole and Menemsha School teacher and principal Dorothy Cottle Poole, he was born in 1930 and grew up on the Menemsha Crossroad. His great-grandfathers on both sides were whaling men, and his mother’s family arrived on the Vineyard in the 1600s. 

Everett’s life was infused with the rich history of the Island and the sea. Gifted with a keen memory, he recounted tales going back generations. His storytelling was always delivered with self-deprecating wit, and his depth of knowledge was vast and captivating.

The Chilmark of his childhood was very different from today.

“People either went fishing or they went farming,” he told Martha’s Vineyard Museum oral historian Linsey Lee in one of seven interviews she did with him. “There was a lot of bartering in the ’30s. My father used to salt mackerel, codfish and pollock every fall, and trade them to the farmers for potatoes and onions and carrots. A couple of the farmers that raised animals — my father’d give them extra and during the winter, and whenever they killed an animal, they’d bring us some meat. And that’s the only meat we had. Lived on fish and salt pork.”

At age 11, Everett began work at what is now the Chilmark Store.

His story of starting Poole’s Fish Market was legendary. (To hear him tell the story go to

Everett attended the one-room schoolhouse in Chilmark, and middle and high school in Vineyard Haven, later graduating from the University of Rhode Island.

During his college years, he returned to the Island in summer and ran his fish business, opening Poole’s Fish Market in 1944. He remained at the helm until 2005, when he passed the business to his son Donald Poole.

For the many teenagers and young adults who had the opportunity to work with Everett at the market, he was a tough but fair boss. He expected and gave the best.

During the Korean War, Everett enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard, became a skipper, and graduated from Officers Candidate School. When his father became ill in 1954, he transferred to Boston.

Released from service in 1956, he returned to the Vineyard and ran the fish market and the Menemsha Gas Station, which he had purchased the previous year, as well as the Chilmark Chandlery.

He wanted to provide a market for all the fishermen. By the 1960s more fish were coming in than he could sell on the Island, so Everett, ever the entrepreneur, froze excess fish and sold it on the wholesale frozen market.

For a few years in the 1970s, sea scallops were being brought in by fishermen from offshore in abundance. Again, Everett created another business to help the economy of the Island, setting up a large shucking station. The station was open 24 hours a day, and brought needed cash for many Islanders.  

Over the years, he watched fish stocks steadily decline from overfishing. He often quoted his father, who said: “The worst thing that ever happened to the fishing industry was the invention of the internal combustion engine. If we were still fishing under sail, there’d be plenty of fish.”

Throughout his life, he worked to preserve the quality of life on the Island. He served on the Dukes County Planning & Economic Development Commission, whose prescient reports from the engineering firm Metcalf & Eddy warned of the pressures of development and the risk to the Vineyard environment. He was among the first group of citizens elected to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission in 1974. Three years later, faced with the threatened loss of Island representation at the state House of Representatives, Everett famously made a motion, as chairman of the Chilmark board of selectmen, to secede from Massachusetts. 

Most afternoons until very recently he could be found at the chandlery, helping fishermen or sailors find a rope or shackle they might need, carving wood and talking to visitors who would stop by. “We never made a profit at the chandlery. But if I can pay the bills and have enough left for a cigar on Sunday, it’s all right,” he told Ms. Lee.

Throughout his long life, family was a priority. In 1956 he married English teacher and writer Virginia Fedor Poole. Their loving and supportive marriage ended when Virginia died in 2008. Their three children survive them: Joan Cottle Poole-Nash, a teacher of the deaf (and her husband Thomas Nash) of West Newton, Donald Fedor Poole of Chilmark, Katharine Whitman Poole of Chilmark and Nashville; and grandchildren Amy Howland Nash, and twins Thomas Everett Nash and Katharine Hollister Nash.

He is also survived by Dianne Smith Poole, his companion and wife.

A celebration of his life will be held in late spring.